Embryonic Freshmen, Checked-Out Seniors, and Summers Full of Ideas

what one former teacher will miss about back-to-school season

James Jeffries

This fall will be the first time in 27 years that I will not be going back to school. There are many features of the first days of school that I will miss, but I’ve decided to list my top 10.

Freshmen. Every year that I have taught, the freshmen got younger and younger, until it got to the point that they were little embryos traipsing down the hall. Like embryos, the filters between their inner and outer lives are delightfully thin. They blurt out any words triggered by random electrical impulses in their brains. Words like, “I want a man-bun, except, you know, for a girl.”

Every year that I have taught, the freshmen got younger and younger, until it got to the point that they were little embryos traipsing down the hall. Like embryos, the filters between their inner and outer lives are delightfully thin. They blurt out any words triggered by random electrical impulses in their brains. Words like, “I want a man-bun, except, you know, for a girl.”

Sophomores. This is the year when they get their golden ticket to independence: a driver’s license. Parents quite often use a student’s grades as one of the prerequisites for driver’s ed. Never have I yielded a more mighty carrot and stick than a driver’s license. I actually caught a student taking notes during one of my lectures. They even wrote down the jokes, ’cause you never know what’s going to be on a test.

Juniors. They know the system at school, they are more mature, their brains are more developed, and they cannot excuse themselves from school yet. They finally have developed their sarcasm into a finely edged tool rather than a blunt instrument. They are pretty close to being perfect students.

Seniors. I love those glorious 17 minutes of first period when seniors are mature, curious, attentive, and driven. Then senioritis kicks in.

Teachers. September teachers are as different from May teachers as Thor-lightning-enhanced Iron Man is different from Tony Stark with his arc reactor ripped out of his chest. September Teachers have had two months of experiencing the light of day, finishing a thought, and emptying their bladders whenever they darn well feel like it. They glow!

Parents. Parents really seem to appreciate school personnel much more after the summer. I don’t know why that is, but we get nice emails at the beginning of the school year. It makes for a nice start for the teamwork necessary for the rest of the year.

Administrators. Principals and assistant principals get a whole summer’s worth of new requirements handed down to them from on high. I’ve always enjoyed the positive spin they try to put on these new demands, like performance-level yo-yoists trying to do the walk-the-dog trick with barbed wire instead of string. It’s never pretty, but you are amazed at the attempt.

Support staff. I have no words. They are beyond amazing. A school without custodians, administrative assistants, and food service staff is like a Lamborghini without oil. Or gasoline. Or an engine.

A summer’s worth of accumulated ideas. I would share ideas with other teachers for better lessons on a daily basis during the school year, but the first few weeks are like an idea hurricane. Sure, what you thought were good lessons are destroyed, but, man, the improvement when you rebuild.

A summer’s worth of junk. Teachers are like a socially acceptable version of the people on American Hoarders. You would not believe what we bring back from thrift sales to share with each other. I’ve gotten stock market games, geography games, and a magnetic dartboard, which is really cool for review games since that silly school rule against sharp projectiles precludes real darts.

I’m in the process of finding another job, but whatever I find will never compare to teaching. I salute teachers, students, parents, administration, and support staff on the start of this new school year.

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